Just heard the news - yet another misaimed young psychopath killed someone after watching "Dexter". It is a third one, if my memory serves me well. The situation starts to grow increasingly like a similar one with a good movie "Natural Born Killers" by Oliver Stone, which some psychos also mistook as a guide for what to do and there were a lot of them. Meanwhile people, as usual in this situation, started to chant that series should be moved from TV once and for all, which is a "shoot the messenger" position in it's worst.
Serial killers and psychopaths do not become violent because of violence they've seen on the screen, they repeat it simply as they like it and it brings them some delight. You can believe me as I'm from Donetsk, Ukraine. It is a good city, but there is a war conflict now and it is full of psychos killing people. And I bet that only a handful of them have seen "Dexter". I even can probably go as far to say that most of them haven't seen any serial killer movies/series at all and (irony) would publicaly despice them each time they stumble across. Yet still they can kill in cold blood and move on with it.
Despite numerous claims that violence on big and small screens actually inspires murders, cases when it was confirmed are quite rare. As far as I remember, "Natural Born Killers" was the most notorious example prior to "Dexter". We also have no information on how non-violent shows actually inspire people with murderous urge: on of the Soviet serial killers of the 80's cut away the eyes of his victims. The kicker? When he was captured he explained that he was particularly inspired by a brief scene in the very succesful Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series, the one where Sherlock Holmes debunks the urban legend that eyes of a victim has an image of a killer in them, like a photograph. If someone was actually inspired to murder by this (and the scene was in the book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well), what are the chances that stupid reality shows and harmless soap operas produce more mass murderers then any horror movie to date?
At times I wonder where were the people, who blame "Dexter" for being an inspiration for murderers, when such critically acclaimed hits as "Game of Thrones" and "Breaking Bad" aired? I'm not blaming both of this series and their creators (because I'm not like the aforementioned people), but the latter probably inspired dozens of meth cooks all over the world and the former, believe it or not, inspires some of the paramilitary groups which are now torturing my own city, Donetsk, and all the region with their nonseless actions and claims. They're really proud of comparing themselves and their opponents with the characters of "GoT", thinking of themselves as some noble medieval/fantasy knights and kings. In a modren world, where they use modren weapons to bring chaos which hardly can be compared to what was before. Despite both series are good, well-executed and well-written, I'm really reluctant to watch both of them because of that and I don't like them, prefering at times more poorly executed and written "Dexter". I'm especially sad and embarassed by "Game of Thrones" now, for the aforementioned reasons.
I'm a perfectly sane individual and a deep pacifist and yet I'm a fan of "Dexter". Why? Because it captured things that fewer shows and movies barely tried - it captures the thought that serial killers and psychopaths are not beasts and/or some mythical monsters hunting their victims in the mazes. They're mentally unstable victims of our own society gone wrong and human beings deep down, somehwere. Late character actor Joe Spinell in 1980 wrote a starring vehicle for himself - a notoriously violent cult film named "Maniac". The fact that it was panned by some of the critics and, as well, misaimed feminists (who thought that film tries to advocate murdering women) was probably one of the reasons why Spinell had a depression through the eighties which eventually turned into alcohol and drug abuse (and probably killed him in a hemophiliac accident). "Maniac 2: Mr. Robbie" remained unfnished and a few scenes that remain are trying to have the message of the first film as right as well: a lot of those whom we considered monsters were just raised by very bad parents. Fortunately, Spinnel's legacy lives, as in 2012 remake of "Maniac" tries to have the right message as obvious as possible. All of the three movies are genuinely sad (and I really like that, as sadness is one of the true emotions we really all should have at times to remain sane) and make you think twice each time when an annoying kid shows up and you're thinking on shouting at him, if not worse. Children and teenagers are somewhat rude, unconcetrated. They have hormones which make them unstable. Restricting that often leads to particularly horrible cases of people with bad psychological problems. And it has nothing to do with violent movies, some of which are considered violent fo depicting that, for God's sake!
I'm perfectly okay with what people call "gory" depictions of violence because it actually what our art has anywhere: how many classic Reneissance (and earlier, later periods, as well) paintings depicting bodily mutilations can you name? There are a lot of them (there is a reason why special makeup effects people nowadays often called "artists" in the credits of the movies). Realistic violence can be a strong plot point - it is hard to show how bad, for example, the route of a killer is, without showing what actually murder is - a disgusting to the core process of stripping someone of his/her life. It also has the same effect that spicy food does on many people - we percieve it as tasty because our brain knows that it is a good thing for our health. In cases of normal people horror films and violent pictures may have the same effect - it makes us much more resistant to effect and may, as well, save someone's life because one of the reasons why some passerbys can't deliver proper first aid to injured people is their shock of seeing the wound. It makes organism to check automatically on whether the same damage was done to us and it is not the best thing of our biology, especially for others, who need help.
Returning to "Dexter" - it should be noted, that two of the three killers who claim to be inspired by "Dexter" were, to my knowledge, underaged to watch the show. I'm not a fan of MPAA rating system because in some cases, including mine, it doesn't work. I've seen David Cronenberg's "Videodrome" at the age of seven and I've understood and enjoyed the surreal metaphors. But I'm a more or less rare example and it is really should be an important piece of parenting to know what exactly are the limits of your child and what he or she will understand and what will be misenterpreted in a horrendous way. But instead of asking the parents a perfectly reasonable questions on where were they when their children felt "exactly like him" (as one of the copycat murderers said) audience would really rather blame the television. Firstly because they have a habit for it and seconfly becuase it is much easier then actually try to solve deep psychological problems which are VERY different for each individual.
What I've learned from "Dexter" and what I wasn't thinking of much before is that murder can change anyone forever and that does include soldiers, policemen, etc. who were doing their jobs. As well, it made mw thinking a lot that what Dexter does is generally what many of us would have done ifwe don't have any moral gudelines and deep sense of what is "right" and what is "wrong". Despite I have some healthy respect to vigilantes, they often cross the line and too incompetent to really bring us the justice. The only problem is that no one is, including police and judges. Justice is too subjective. Thinking of how many people were mistakenly executed instead of uncaptured serial killers (in Soviet Union each one with more then 20 victims had at least one of those and those like Chikatilo had at least three persons mistakenly captured and killed instead of them) makes me really sad that death penalty still exists in modern world. I don't believe that some people deserve to die and don't beleive that any of us are in the position to judge, either. Likewise I don't believe in prohibiting media - as a film buff I know that it works exactly opposite. Ukraine's local censorship board (NEK, National Esperts Commission on Moral) is not the worst around (especially if compared to Russian one) but when it tends to ban films, for some reason it bans those movies which have thought-provoking message in it (including but not limited to "Land of the Dead", "Hostel" and the recent "Evil Dead"), while paying no attention to movies like "Final Destination" franchise which really should be considered somewhat dangerous for all the depression it induces and making people think that they can die anywhere, anytime (it is so, but thinking of it all the time can drive you insane much faster then you would have a statistical chance to be involved in any accident).
So, those who think that "Dexter" is a dangerous TV show that should be never put on air again - just think for a moment what have you watched yesterday and how that makes sense in the eyes of people very different to you. As well, think how it may influense people who are SO different to you that they can actually kill others. You probably can't even imagine that, especially if you haven't seen "Dexter" at all. Because all of the people who imitated Dexter in real life would have probably ended as his victims in the series, despite him being no better (he's a villain protagonist, after all).